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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
612-978-3050

Nickel and Dime Your Company to Success

a tight focus on value outperforms a "hamburgers served" approach

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Most kids spend some time examining pocket change, sorting coins into various piles, raiding their parents' pockets or purses for all those silver and copper playthings. And one of the early mysteries of life, at least in American currency, surrounds the dime.

It comes as quite a surprise, at some point, to be told that the dime is much more important (valuable) than the penny, even though the penny is larger. And it is perhaps even more confusing when we compare nickels and dimes, as they are more nearly the same color, and the nickel is clearly larger and thicker, yet the dime is worth twice as much. (Unscrupulous older siblings have been known to take advantage of this confusion, trading larger pennies and nickels for the smaller dimes their brothers and sisters might have.)

Later on it is quite easy to understand that a small amount of a valuable substance can be worth more than a larger amount of a less valuable substance.

The purpose of your training and employee communication activities, whatever you contribute -- instructional design, classroom instruction, online training, documentation and reference materials, coaching -- is to help your company or your clients to be successful in achieving their goals. And especially when resources are scarce, finding the "dimes" in your opportunities to contribute to that success can be crucial.

There is a tendency, especially in a large organization with a well-defined training function, to think in terms of "hamburgers served," where the number of participants (or participant-hours) becomes the measure of the training contribution. Delivering as much training as possible to as many people as possible becomes the focus of everyone in the department.

That's collecting pennies, frankly.

Think about throwing away some of the pennies and nickels and concentrating on the dimes. In other words, your organization may benefit more from less training, focused more tightly on exactly the people, skills, and knowledge that produce the biggest impact on overall success.

Let's face it, not every task or decision is of equal value to your company. Some things simply have to be done right, or the consequences can be quite painful. In other cases, small improvements in performance can deliver disproportionately large improvements in results.

If your training function can help ensure that those tasks are optimally performed, that the organization avoids the negative impact of key mistakes and reaps the opportunities of crucial performance improvements, you can make a huge contribution to everyone's success. And if that means that you have to give up some useful training and divert those resources to sharply focused efforts in these key areas, so be it.

There are really two things that hold most training operations back from taking this approach:

  1. Some simply can't give up the numbers game. Counting participants and "punching tickets" is more important, in the department or the organization culture, than the actual results achieved.
  2. More challenging for most training functions is that they do not understand the business of their company well enough to find the "dimes" scattered among the nickels and pennies.

That latter point can be a tough one. It takes a truely outward orientation, a passionate interest in the success of the other functions in the company, to develop the business sense that enables you to apply training leverage exactly where it is needed. Not everyone is willing to make the effort.

Too bad. Applying your special skills where they will do the most good -- even if that means withholding them from some areas where they are valuable, but not as valuable -- could be one of the secrets to helping your company through tough times and positioning the organization for rapid recovery and growth when conditions improve.

Look for the dimes in your business environment. Give the pennies and nickels to your little brother.

© 2009 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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